OLPCorps GWU Madagascar
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GW / University of Maryland Madagascar Proposal
Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries, with more than half its population living on less than one dollar per day. We will deploy the XOs to two primary schools serving children 6-10 years old run by the Madagascar School Project in the rural village of Ambatoharanana. We will give XOs to every student at both schools, achieving saturation of all primary school children in the village.
Though Madagascar has recently been the site of some upheaval, we believe deployment will still be effective and advantageous. The situation has calmed considerably, and unrest has been limited to the capital city. We will monitor the situation closely through the next few months but believe that the security situation should remain stable.
Ambatoharanana is a small village located three hours north of Antananarivo; 96% of the population is economically dependent on agriculture. The village is home to two schools run by the Madagascar School Project. Together, the schools have just over ninety students between 6-12 years old. English is the teaching language of both schools. The children will be in school for the first two weeks of the deployment. However, they all live nearby in the community and will be brought back in small groups for focused training throughout the summer.
The schools are 500 yards away from St. Paul's Theological College. The computers and equipment will be stored in a secure room at the college. Although the schools do not currently have electricity, they are in the process of being put on the grid and will have power before project implementation.
The Madagascar School Project (MSP) is a Canada-based NGO that operates two primary schools in Ambatoharanana. MSP is uniquely enthusiastic about an XO deployment and because they run all aspects of the two schools, we are completely assured that they are on board with using the computers in a way that is structurally and pedagogically consistent with OLPC's mission.
MSP also has strong ties to the local community. The mayor of Ambatoharanana has offered to hold a parents' summit and create a contract in which the expectations of both parents and students regarding the computers are specified (e.g., the laptops are the property of the children).
We will spend a considerable portion of the deployment working with teachers and MSP staff (some of whom already have a familiarity with computers) to enable them to maximize the children's experience with the XO, educate the children on the responsible use of the internet and deal with minor technical problems on a day to day basis.
For more serious problems or infrastructure upgrades, we are speaking with various engineering and computer science students/faculty at the University of Antananarivo approximately three hours away. During the deployment we will integrate students and faculty at the University so they will have a meaningful stake in the project after our departure, and will be able to assist with any technical or infrastructure challenges.
In addition to the funding from OLPC, we have received firm commitments (pending acceptance of this proposal) from our universities and various donors for $5,000.
We will cover all expenses involved in the initial deployment from the OLPC funding and already pledged contributions and then raise additional funds to create a trust to cover ongoing XO related expenses (internet and electricity) as well as unanticipated costs (e.g. equipment failures).
The entire deployment will be documented, emphasizing the effect of the XOs on children and the school. This media will be given to the MSP so they can use it to demonstrate the value of their project to potential donors.
Giving these children laptops - with 100% saturation of both schools and complete ownership - empowers them, actively engaging them in learning. Children are then not just "education receptors"; they are part of an active process, and can now explore topics, ideas, and the world beyond Madagascar. We will engage both teachers and students in creating a unique curriculum for learning inside and outside of school.
The laptops will provide individual access to vast information, eroding the political isolation of rural communities in Madagascar that contributes to political unrest. We will also facilitate the exploration of language skills (Malagasy, French, and English), conservation (which is particularly important in Madagascar), and health. During our time in Ambatoharanana, we will work directly with students and teachers in a "day camp" format to ensure the XOs will be integrated appropriately.